Please install the Character Map


A few weeks ago I commented/complained that most people in the U.S. technology field consider foreign language support a peripheral issue even though English does need "foreign language" support for special punctuation and foreign words. An unfortunate corollary is that the U.S. tech industry also assumes that people will not need to type beyond ASCII either.

As a result, some of the base-line tools that Apple and Microsoft provide may not necessarily get installed. For instance, I recommend the Windows Character Map as a last resort for a lot of Windows users. But in the past few months, I've gotten questions (mostly outside Penn State) saying the user can't find it and where the heck is it.

The truth may not have gotten installed. I've noticed that in order to save space, some "exotic" utilities may be skipped. Hmmmm!

Truthfully, I can understand skipping the East Asian utilities because they do take up a lot of disk space (one East Asian font can be about 8-20 MB vs. 200-500 K for Western-only fonts)...but I do worry that even the basic tools for handling the € sign are also not included.

It's difficult enough for the busy administrative assistant, instructor or Spanish I student (in the lab) to figure out how to insert the exotic symbols. Imaging trying to convince an even busier tech support specialist that they need to install some new utilities from the Windows CD-ROM (or the Mac disk) and it's not a very happy scenario.

FYI - The situation at most of Penn State is not like this - I think the Character Map is universally installed. Also, the CLC Student Computing Labs in particular have worked hard to ensure that the best Unicode toolset is available, even East Asian languages. Having said this though, I do hear about the occasional tale of a missing Unicode utility somewhere out there in PSU computer land.

About The Blog

I am a Penn State technology specialist with a degree in linguistics and have maintained the Penn State Computing with Accents page since 2000.

See Elizabeth Pyatt's Homepage ( for a profile.


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